Trial separation

Red Dwarf's Grant and Naylor are said to have split up. But a new series is in the pipeline. Maxton Walker meets a tense Doug Naylor

smegging wonderful. First, my washing machine packs up. Ditto with my tape recorder minutes before the interview is due to start. There I am, sitting in a central London production company wearing my most smeggy clothes, panicking over a sick Dictaphone. And at that moment, who should walk in but the very object of my teenage adulation, Clare Grogan. A moment like this and I look like something the cat dragged in.

Things can only improve. Doug Naylor is unlikely to mind my dishevelled appearance. He has, after all, made a living by writing about curry stains and cruddy boxer shorts.

Naylor, along with Rob Grant, is revered for Red Dwarf (although we should perhaps consider this as merely atonement for earlier crimes. We are, you may recall, dealing with the men who wrote Spitting Image's "The Chicken Song"). And here he is waiting to talk about the imminent production of his solo Red Dwarf novel, Last Human. But first, let's recap.

August 1984. Two young Spitting Image writers gave birth to an idea for a sitcom. It is set aboard a mining vessel stranded in deep space. Aboard are the last human, a creature descended from a cat and a hologram. It is clearly a non-starter but they pitch it to the BBC's light entertainment department, anyway. No dice. They try BBC North West, which is in bullish mood following the success of The Young Ones and Filthy Rich and Catflap. Red Dwarf has the requisite number of knob gags and the first series goes ahead. As predicted, it is not particularly funny.

Autumn 1993: Red Dwarf VI airs. It is considered one of the best sitcoms the BBC has produced in years. At this point Rob Grant expresses a desire to produce a solo Red Dwarf novel, and the two writers move to separate projects.

Two years later, and rumours of a Lennon / McCartney style split between the two have been circulating. Naylor tenses when I ask him about his relationship with Grant but confesses that their partnership on Red Dwarf may be over: "Rob doesn't want to write any more television episodes. At least that's my understanding." However a new series starring Craig Charles is scheduled for next year, and Naylor will go ahead with or without Grant. "If Rob still didn't become involved, then some of the scripts for the next episode would have to be commissioned from other writers."

There is the question of whether Red Dwarf can continue without half of its creative force. From the evidence of Last Human, however, Naylor is easily able to carry the flame. How did he find it working alone on Red Dwarf material?

"It was weird, certainly at first. Before, it has always been the two of us. Rob would work the computer and I would pace around and make the coffee. The first time I had to work alone it was terrible. But there are advantages too. You can write whenever you like, even in the middle of the night if you have an idea, although it's always good to have somebody to bounce ideas off."

Dwarfies who have been weaned solely on the television series may find the book something of a departure. There are far fewer straight laughs, although some of the comic riffs are sublime (such as when our heroes discover a planet on which the currency is human sperm). But, says Naylor, this different tack is deliberate. "I wanted to write something darker, and I knew that I'd have to give up some of the comedy. With scripts, you have to write three laughs a page. In a novel, you don't need that kind of regime."

In one of those spooky cases of sci-fi-cum-satire imitating life, the novel opens with Lister (played in the series by Craig Charles) on trial for something he did not do. "It was a very very freaky coincidence," admits Naylor. "That part of the novel was written before any of the charges were brought. It was a terrible time for all of us. For him to be plucked out of a middle-class existence and stuck in Wandsworth prison was absolutely unbelievable."

Whatever the future holds for the crew of Red Dwarf, we can at least be assured that it will be more bizarre than we could possibly imagine.

`Last Human' is released on 27 April, £15. Doug Naylor will be signing copies at W H Smith, Holborn, 3 May; Forbidden Planet, W1, Books Etc, Charing Cross Rd, 13 May

Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there